Birth: 26 Jan 1874, Center Hall, Centre County, Pennsylvania
Death: 21 Nov 1958, Ahoskie, Hertford County, North Carolina
James Alexander Keller (1843-1910)
Charlotte Kleckner Keller (1844-1900)
Spouse: Margaret Lillian Eddleman Keller (1885-1966)
Married: 10 Jun 1908, Rowan County, North Carolina
Children: John Haney Keller, III (1914-1997)
Burial: Greenlawn Cemetery, China Grove, Rowan County, North Carolina, USA
Source: www.findagrave.com, # 55045383.
Rev. Banks D. Shepherd, New Gilead Church, A History of the German Reformed People on Coldwater (1966), p. 34-35.
Rev. John Henry Keller was born at Center Hall, Center Hall County, Pennsylvania on January 26, 1874, the son of James A. Keller and Charlotte Kleckner Keller. He attended the public schools of his home community, Center Hall High School, and prepared for college under Dr. D. W. Wolfe at Spring Mills, Pennsylvania. He attended Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he graduated in 1898. He then attended the Theological Seminary in Lancaster, Pennsylvania where he graduated in 1901. In 1935 Franklin and Marshall College conferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity, in recognition of his faithful service in the Christian ministry John Keller was licensed by Susquehanna Classis, in Pennsylvania in May 1901 in Selingsgrove, Pennsylvania. He was ordained and installed to the pastorate of the New Gilead Charge June 30, 1901.
According to the incomplete records of New Gilead Church for that period, Rev. John Keller began his pastorate here on June 23, 1901 and continued until June 30, 1906, when the charge was re-aligned. However, he continued to serve as supply pastor intermittently from 1906 to 1925.
It appears that when Rev. Keller became the pastor he found New Gilead at a low ebb, financially and in leadership. Rev. Keller’s records indicate that while he served as pastor of New Gilead and St. James, Mt. Pleasant he supplemented his income by teaching at the Mount Pleasant Collegiate Institute and Mont Amoena Seminary, both in Mount Pleasant.
One of the members of New Gilead recalls Rev. Keller’s relating that when he became pastor New Gilead had no offering plates, baptismal font or pulpit Bible. Immediately the young pastor wrote to friends and relatives in Pennsylvania to request their assistance. The result was that offering plates were given by Mr. James A. Keller, apparently Rev. John Keller’s father, a baptismal font was given by Rev. F. A. Gast, D. D., of the Seminary at Lancaster, Pennsylvania in memory of his wife; and a pulbit Bible was given by an unknown donor These articles are now found in the memorial cabinet in the narthex of New Gilead Church. The baptismal font was in use until 1966, when it was replaced by a beautiful new one by Mr. and Mrs. Fred Suther.
In 1903, the N. C. Classis of the Reformed Church took action authorizing Rev. J. H. Keller to organize a congregation within the bounds of New Gilead Charge. In 1904 he reported that arrangements had been made to build a house of worship and to organize a new congregation with the name of Keller Reformed Church, that officers had already been elected but hand not yet been ordained, that the church building was in the process of construction, and services were being held twice each month. The organization of Keller Church was completed August 18, 1904, and it was dedicated August 20, 1904. Rev. Keller performed the act of dedication, and Rev. Paul Barringer, D. D. preached the sermon.
Dr. John Keller spent his entire ministry in North Carolina. In addition to New Gilead and St. James, Mt. Pleasant, he served Keller Church, Trinity Church in Conover, Smyrna and Bethany Churches in Catawba Country, Mt. Zion Church, China Grove, St. Paul’s at Enochville, First Reformed Church at Landis, and Emanuel Church at Lincolnton. The present building at Mt. Zion at Landis were erected under his leadership.
Dr. John Keller retired from the active ministry in 1940. However, like his predecessor, Dr. Paul Barringer, he did not retire from life. He was an active man as long as he was able until his death November 21, 1958.
Dr. John Keller served in the Reformed Church with distinction in a number of denominational posts. He was president of the North Carolina Classis, president of the Potomac Synod and a trustee of Catawba College, Salisbury, N. C. He was deeply interested in Catawba College, having spent much time in earlier years in northern churches raising money for that institution.
Dr. John Keller was very much interested in teaching. As has been mentioned, he served as teacher at the Collegiate Institute and Mont Amoena Seminary in Mt. Pleasant, where he was co-principal with Rev. J. H. C. Fisher for 8 years. He was dean of Claremont College, Hickory, N. C. from 1909-1912, principal of Mirando High School and teacher at China Grove High School.
Dr. Keller was active in civic affairs where he lived. He served a term as mayor of Mt. Pleasant. He was a frequent speaker at commencement exercises and many other activities. Keller Memorial Masonic Lodge of Rockwell was named in his honor. The China Grove Cotton Mill stands on ten acres of land donated by Dr. Keller. After his retirement from the ministry he served for a while as head of “Boys’ Town” in Concord.
On June 10, 1908 Dr. John Keller was married to Margaret Lillian Eddleman, of China Grove, N. C. To them was born one sone. Dr. John Haney Keller III, who operates a clinic in the Fitzsimmons General Hospital of Denver, Colorado.
Being a beloved former pastor and a near-by resident (in China Grove) and a forceful and inspiring speaker, Dr. Keller was called upon on important occasions to fill the pulpit at New Gilead Church or to assist in the services. Even at the time of his death plans were under way to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of his ordination at New Gilead.
Dr. John H. Keller lived the philosophy expressed at his funeral, at his request, by Robert Browing in “Rabbi Ben Ezra.”
“Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life for which the first was made…”
Salisbury Evening Post (Salisbury, NC), May 28, 1909, p. 1.
REV. MR. KELLER’S CHANGE
Mt. Pleasant Educator Goes to Claremont College
The China Grove Record says: Rev. John H. Keller who has been one of the instructors of Mont Amoena Seminary, at Mt. Pleasant, during the past school year, has severed his connection with that institution and will take a similar position with Claremont college, Hickory, which commences the first of September. Mr. Keller and his wife, Mrs. Keller, being a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Eddlman, will spend part of the summer here with Mrs. Keller’s parents, after which they will go to Hickory to live.
Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, NC), 26 Aug 1943, 6
DR. KELLER HEADS PROJECT MEANT TO SERVE BOYS
CONCORD, Aug. 25 – Rev. John H. Keller, D. D. of China Grove, retired minister of the Evangelical and Reformed church, has been named general superintendent by the executive directors of Boys’ Town, a youth project located a mile south of the W. R. Odell school, near Concord. The project is supervised by the Knights of Young America, local chapter No. 1.
Dr. Keller was born and reared at Center Hill, Pa., graduated at Franklin and Marshall college, Lancaster, Pa., and from Lancaster Theological seminary in 1901. Franklin and Marshal college conferred the doctor of divinity degree upon him in 1935.
He came South in 1901 to become pastor of Mt. Gilead charge, serving for eight years, teaching fora year in North Carolina Lutheran college and seven years in Mont Amoena Lutheran seminary, both at Mount Pleasant. He was mayor of Mount Pleasant for a year and during this time erected and Evangelical and Reformed church which bears his name, located four miles east of Concord.
He was married to Miss Margaret Lillian Eddleman of China Grove in June, 1908. They have one son, Dr. John H. Keller, Jr., a graduate of China Grove schools, Duke university, and Tulane Medical school, New Orleans, La. He is a present associated with the Naval hospital at San Diego, Calif.
In 1909 Dr. Keller moved to Hickory and served as dean of Claremont college, during which time he supplied Trinity church, Conover, Bethany and Smyrna churches in Catawba county. He went to China Grove, and St. Paul’s church, Enochville.
Dr. Keller erected new churches at China Grove and Landis, and became pastor of the Mt. Zion-Landis charge, serving approximately 25 years. During this pastorate he taught a private school at China Grove, in the China Grove High school, in the Enochville High school, and in the Miranda High school.